Processing Class through local farmer's market UPDATED WITH ARTICLE

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Engteacher, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. Engteacher

    Engteacher Poultry, Poetry, and Prose

    Sep 1, 2009
    Hastings, MN
    Yesterday my husband, our son, and I attended a chicken processing class given by the family who sells chicken at our local farmers market. There were about seven other folks there to learn just like us, and it was so helpful to be walked through each step. We did everything from killing to packaging with very patient and experienced teachers. We each brought our chicken home along with farm fresh eggs. It was a unique Sunday afternoon, to be sure!

    Our son is 14. He's been so good with our chickens and so confident in his ability to harvest the meat, I was particularly glad to see that he was able to handle the responsibility just fine. Our meaties are 5 weeks old right now, so we'll be processing in just a few short weeks. We'll need every able bodied family member helping to accomplish it all.

    For those of you who process birds regularly, you might consider doing something like this. I would imagine there are other novices like us who are willing to pay you to teach them.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  2. Pupsnpullets

    Pupsnpullets Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 9, 2008
    SoCal desert
    Essential skills are what we could all be learning right now in these interesting times. I'm pleased it was a good experience for you, your husband and your son.
  3. Buster52

    Buster52 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 28, 2009
    Geronimo Oklahoma
    What a wonderful coincidence. I'm just gearing up to start selling chicken and turkey at our farmers market.

    So how do your folks go about it? I have to sell the bird live, then go home and process it. I can then either deliver it to their home, or bring it to the next market for them to pick up.
  4. Engteacher

    Engteacher Poultry, Poetry, and Prose

    Sep 1, 2009
    Hastings, MN
    They have an meat inspector on site on days when they process, so they can sell their chickens to a few select grocery co-op grocery stores as well as the farmers market. Apparently, they cannot transport their chickens across state lines because then they would have to deal with the federal agriculture laws instead of just the state.

    An inspector didn't need to be there yesterday because we were processing the bird for our own consumption.
  5. Engteacher

    Engteacher Poultry, Poetry, and Prose

    Sep 1, 2009
    Hastings, MN
    Here is the article about the class. This comes from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I don't know if you need to register to read it, so I'll copy/paste it here just in case. The video is also worth watching if you get a chance.

    Carnivores get a course in how a meal is made

    By AIMÉE BLANCHETTE, Star Tribune

    Last update: June 19, 2010 - 11:32 PM

    WEST CONCORD, MINN. - As she drove past farm after lush, sprawling farm, Rebekah Leonhart had 65 miles to change her mind and head back home to Minneapolis.

    But she'd already spent weeks preparing herself for what she considered an opportunity too important to pass up -- the chance to kill and process her own chicken.

    After suiting up in rubber boots, gloves and aprons at the southern Minnesota poultry farm, Leonhart and her two classmates headed toward the back room where four 8-week-old Cornish Cross birds awaited their fate. Leonhart took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

    "I'm very grief-stricken already," she said, the tears welling up. "But I totally get it. There's so much reverence that a farm like this puts into raising animals, then on top of it they have the task of killing them. Even if you do it every day, it can't be easy for anybody."

    Driven by concerns about safety and ethics, a growing number of people across the country are getting closer to their food. New faces show up at farmers markets to meet the men and women who grew their vegetables and produce. Others plant gardens for the first time, or build coops in their back yards to raise their own fowl. In Minneapolis, the number of permits issued to raise chickens in the city has more than quadrupled since 2006.

    But the latest, and perhaps most surprising, trend of the local food movement -- killing and processing your own meat.

    In response, Callister Farm in West Concord held two three-hour classes this month, charging customers $40 and providing them with possibly the only opportunity in the area to learn the process -- from kill to freezer -- from a professional.

    "More and more people are taking responsibility for the food they put in their mouths and they want to know where it comes from," said Lori Callister, co-owner of the fifth-generation free-range poultry farm. "If they're going to eat meat, they feel they should see for themselves how it's done and what it's like."

    The kill: never easy
    As Callister told her students what was about to happen, she agreed that the process, especially the kill, is never easy.

    "I think when we get to the point where it doesn't bother us anymore, then we probably better find another profession," she said. "But we realize it's the first step, it has to be done, so we try to do it as humanely as we can."

    When the first 3 1/2-pound chicken was removed from the crate and placed upside down into a traffic cone -- squawking and fighting for its life -- Leonhart left the room.

    Classmate Becca Griffith of Minneapolis teared up and clenched her fists while Alan Callister slit the bird's jugular vein with a sharp knife. The chicken bobbed up and down inside the cone, a natural nervous system response. Within a minute, it lost consciousness and bled to death.

    Marilyn Nelson of St. Paul was the only one in the class able to kill a chicken. After thanking her bird, Nelson did the deed with one swift movement across the its neck. Although she recently had a chicken as a pet in her St. Paul back yard, and had never killed an animal before, she appeared relaxed and at peace.

    "It's part of the process," she said. "I think this class will help me make more informed decisions as a consumer and make better choices for my family and myself."

    The Callisters spent little time advertising the classes because they wanted to gauge interest, keep classes small and see how the first few went before deciding to offer more. Four attended the first class, and eight, including a family of four, went to the second.

    No more eggs?

    If customers and the growing number of people raising back-yard chickens are any indication, the Callisters will be asked to hold the class again and again.

    Since Audrey Matson opened the Eggplant Urban Farm Supply store in April, the St. Paul business, which promotes and sells supplies for back-yard farming in the city, has been getting inquiries about processing.
    "The big question is what to do with the chickens when they're no longer laying eggs," Matson said. "A lot of people who are meat eaters are willing to think about the possibility of eating them and want to know how to do their own processing."

    Tamara Jackman processed her first chicken a few years ago, when one of her egg-layers was mauled by a dog. This spring, Jackman raised three broilers, and, using a kill cone made from a plastic jug, slaughtered them in her Minneapolis back yard.

    She still has five egg-laying hens. A few rarely produce eggs, and she has a decision to make: Keep them as pets, or turn them into "chicken and dumplings."

    "People in the city are so removed from how food happens," she said. "It wasn't an easy thing for me to do, but in commercial operations, they electrocute chickens. I don't see how that's an inherently more humane process."

    At the Callister processing class, once the birds were dead and their heads removed, the three women participated in the next steps. Leonhart pulled her chicken out of the cone by its feet and carried it to the scalding tank, a 145-degree bath that loosens the feathers within a minute.

    Next, the birds went into the picker, a high-powered machine that rotates rapidly while several rubber fingers remove the feathers without damaging the bird. After about 30 seconds, a naked chicken shoots out of the drum onto a stainless steel table, where a few remaining feathers are plucked by hand. Finally, it's time to remove the insides.

    With each step the process became easier for Griffith, who even proudly stashed away the heart, liver, gizzard and other scraps for her dog, a white Chihuahua named Ollie.

    While waiting for their birds to chill in an ice bath, the women took a break to talk about their experience and snack on a pasta salad made with Callister smoked turkey.

    Leonhart said she felt grateful for the opportunity, despite not being able to kill her chicken. Asked how she planned to prepare the bird, she said it would have to be a special occasion with friends -- and plenty of garlic, lemon and vegetables.

    "I also don't really feel like eating chicken right now," she added.

    Aimée Blanchette • 612-673-1715

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